OCEAN CITY – The Mayor and City Council approved outsourcing a study of Ocean City’s current pay and benefits, despite thoughts to have the work conducted by city staff to save funding.
On Tuesday afternoon, Ocean City Human Resource Director Wayne Evans requested the Mayor and City Council’s approval to solicit proposals for a Compensation and Benefits Study for city employees.
“This is part of our strategic plan as a 2013 action item. A city-wide Compensation and Benefits Study was stated under goal number one [Financially Sound Town Government] of the plan for the town government. The purpose of this is to analyze, validate, and/or improve current compensation administration and classification practices but also to determine the town’s competitive standing as it related to pay and benefits comparative market through the collection and analysis of compensation and benefits survey data,” Evans said
The town had estimated and budgeted $45,000 to $50,000 to fund the study in the Fiscal Year 2014 Budget. The successful vendor will be expected to provide a completed study on or before Aug. 30.
Councilwoman Margaret Pillas asked why the study could not be completed in-house by city staff to save the already allocated funding, such as when Evans conducted a Compensation and Benefits Survey in 2011.
Evans responded at that time he conducted a market study only to compare Ocean City to other comparable jurisdictions based on some benchmark positions. The survey did not expand into position classifications and employee responsibilities.
“An undertaking of this measure I think would certainly be beyond his [Evans] department’s means at this point. It’s comprehensiveness in nature given the size of our work force, the 500-plus positions, the expectation that every position in our organization would complete a comprehensive position questionnaire to identify the responsibilities of their position, and how their position may have changed over the past five years, a review of the job responsibilities, and so forth,” City Manager David Recor said. “I just think it is beyond the ability at this point given the work load on the department. Again, not beyond the ability of the director but just of the department given the work load.”
Councilman Brent Ashley agreed with Pillas the study could be conducted within the Human Resources Department. He asked Evans if any applicants have ever complained or refused a position because of the wages offered, to which Evans responded, “I do not recall.”
“Basically what we have now has been working well in attracting quality applicants,” Ashley said.
Recor reminded Pillas and Ashley the funding for the study has already been allocated in the current fiscal year’s budget and is an initiative that will carry on into the next fiscal year fully funded.
“Maybe the rest of the council did not get this when they were out campaigning but people don’t like these studies, especially on salaries, and I don’t think we have a problem recruiting or retaining. That is a main issue [voters] talk about,” said Pillas said, who supported the general concept of the evaluation.
Councilwoman Mary Knight pointed out $45,000 to $50,000 is an estimate but the bid be under that.
“I am not looking at this as just a Compensation and Benefits Study. If you read through all of the items the very first one is to provide a position analysis of each position to determine specific duties, and I know when I sat in strategic planning that was very important, or consolidation of pay raises, which could result in savings,” she said. “There are so many things … that could be potential savings and still maintain a very high standard of the work force we have here.”
Mayor Rick Meehan added technology continuously changes job descriptions and the study may result in a reclassification of some of Ocean City’s positions.
“Also, it is just not about seeing where we need to make raises it is also to analyze where we are today. In 18 months, we are going to be going into union contract negotiations again and to be able to have some of this information now is going to help us substantiate our positions during contract negotiations, and those positions are not only important to our employees but to us and the citizens to make sure we go into those negotiations based on good decisions because those contracts last two to four years,” he said.
The council voted 6-1 with Ashley in opposition to approve the solicitation for proposals to conduct a Compensation and Benefits Study.